By Ryan Buck
The key contributors for the Brookfield boys basketball team, having taken the court together for much of their lives, have built a unique collective chemistry.
They may not be able to finish each other’s sentences yet, but their cooperative efforts can definitively finish a game.
Their faith in one another, and the group, was never more evident than in the latter stages of Saturday night’s 64-57 road win over Springfield.
Two Mark Schuler free throws capped a 10-2 Tigers’ run to pull them to within one at 49-48 with 4:12 to play. Brookfield had led by as many as 12 points, but Springfield coach Eric Fender’s switch to pressure defense and hot shooting from Schuler and Eaghon Bees enabled Springfield’s comeback.
“We inserted Joe Caraballo and he really turned the pressure up,” Fender said. “He got a few tips for us and we were able to transition well, and then we finished.”
The Warriors, buoyed by four versatile senior starters, patiently worked on their next trip down the floor.
“We were rattled for a little bit there, we were,” Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said. “Fender’s an excellent coach.”
All five players touched the ball before guard Ryan Mosora, back to the basket at the foul line, quickly turned to his left and found forward Collin Harkulich on a perfect back-cut to the basket.
The bounce pass led the 6-foot-3 Harkulich to an easy layup and a 51-48 lead with 3:35 remaining.
“I would say it’s a calming factor,” said Brookfield guard Jeremy Quinlan of their basic sets. “We just had to get someone in the middle and whoever’s in the middle has to dish it down low to get the bucket.”
Sophomore guard Derrick Dickson knocked down a pair of free throws, then used a Harkulich assist on his way to another easy layup to quickly increase the lead to seven with 2:15 to play.
“I think we just had enough to get us through, get a little cushion again, and then we were comfortable again,” Kovach said. “I think we work cohesively as a unit very well together and I think the kids also know their roles. They know who the scorer is and who needs to have the ball at the right time and in the right place. That makes the difference in a crucial situation at the end of a game.”
After both teams traded baskets, Quinlan, the Warriors’ leading scorer, snuck in to secure an offensive rebound put-back on a missed free throw to give Brookfield a 60-52 lead with a minute left.
Quinlan, who scored a game-high 26 points, knocked down six three-pointers on the night in another brilliant performance.
“They’re a well-balanced team,” Fender said of the Warriors. “They spread the floor well, they’ve got four really good shooters, especially with Jeremy Quinlan. When he knocks down as many as he did, they’re tough to stop.”